The Growing Role of Youth-led Citizen Accountability
Citizen participation is increasingly being recognized as a catalyst for accelerated improvements in sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and rights.
As a proud and vocal proponent of citizen engagement at the local, national and global levels of health policy, the Citizen-Led Accountability Coalition is pleased to launch this blog series highlighting powerful testimony from the 3rd Annual Global Citizens’ Dialogue at the 70th World Health Assembly.
The breakthrough event brought together adolescents and youth from Bolivia, Nepal, Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda and the Philippines with health ministers and other leaders, to have open and honest conversations about what is working, what is not and how they can work together to improve the health and lives of young people — particularly girls and women, who bear the brunt of health inequities.
“Adolescents not only need access to comprehensive health services and information … but meaningful and authentic opportunities to help shape those policies.” — H.E. Rosemary McCarney, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Canada. (Moderator at 3rd Annual Global Citizens Dialogue)
The event had four goals:
- Showcase best practices in citizen engagement with a focus on adolescents;
- Provide a forum for youth to share: their experiences in accountability for health, their own priorities and challenges in accessing health services;
- Identify opportunities for greater engagement and participation of citizens within the WHO and other Global Health structures; and,
- Make recommendations to strengthen adolescent involvement in the implementation, review and evaluation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
It was an ambitious agenda, and one that could benefit from some follow-up, giving the opportunity to more thoroughly consider the ideas put forth, particularly as we approach the UN General Assembly, where global leaders will come together to discuss a host of issues around sustainable development. We’ll try to take you through the issues as expertly as the event’s co-moderators, Canadian Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Rosemary McCarney and Gogontlejang (Gigi) Phaladi from the PMNCH Youth and Adolescent Advisory Committee.
First, a brief scene setter: There are 1.2 billion adolescents in the world today. Healthy and empowered adolescents are essential to successfully implementing the Global Strategy for Women, Children and Adolescents.Adolescents need access to services and information about Sexual Reproductive Health and influence over the policies affecting them, which is also their right.
“Whenever you don’t have a seat at the table, dress comfortably and be prepared to sit on the floor, the most important thing is that you are there and participating actively” —Gogontlejang Phaladi, PMNCH Adolescent and Youth Constituency.
Increasing evidence shows that meaningful engagement of adolescents in policy design contributes to improving quality of services and increases their use. Our event was meant to build on this growing recognition and carry the message forward from two previous Global Citizen Dialogue events held outside of the World Health Assembly in 2015 and 2016.
Up next: we’ll hear from Jemie Shrestha, a 20-year-old activist from Nepal. Jemie is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work and first became interested in these issues when she was just 16 years old. She regularly accompanied her father on field visits for Safe Motherhood Network Federation Nepal and met girls her own age who were married and having children before their bodies were physically ready.
She saw many cases of collapsed uteruses and other health problems, and met girls and women who were banished from their communities during menstruation, forced to stay in sheds with cows and other farm animals. These experiences and more drive her commitment to improving the health of women and girls so they have the chance to pursue their dreams like she is hers.